Thursday August 12th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
21Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
Left fielder Ryan Braun hasn't had the season he's accustomed to. He's never hit fewer than 32 home runs in a season, but he's only on pace for 23 this year. His batting average is off 31 points from last year, dropping from .320 to .289. His OBP is off 43 points, from .386 to .343. But last week he batted .538 with four multi-hit games and a five-hit night against the Cubs -- only to injure his wrist while colliding with Astros first baseman Brett Wallace on Sunday. Braun has had only one at-bat -- a pinch-hit strikeout -- since.
22Houston Astros
Last Week: 22
Even the Astros' fans are having a down season. When a foul ball came scorching down the left field line toward a couple appearing to be in their early 20s, the guy ducked out of the way, allowing the ball to hit his girlfriend in the right arm. When asked about the incident, he used the tired-old excuse that he lost in the lights. His girlfriend didn't dump him on the spot but called him out on television, saying, "He just bailed." The sideline reporter offered him a pair of sunglasses and some advice: "Next time you should go toward your girlfriend, protect her and don't go the other way like a little chicken."
23Washington Nationals
Last Week: 23
Andre Dawson never played a single game in Washington in his 21-year career, but that's where the recently inducted member of the Hall of Fame traveled Tuesday to be honored. Dawson, who is wearing an Expos hat in his Hall plaque for the franchise where he played 11 seasons, was honored by the Nationals ? who moved from Montreal to the nation's capital before the 2005 season -- in a pregame ceremony. The current Nationals wore Expos caps during batting practice, but the National everyone seems ready to rush to Cooperstown, Stephen Strasburg, struggled in his return from the disabled list, giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Marlins.
24Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 25
Indians manager Manny Acta recently said he would use six starters for the rest of season -- "but not necessarily in a six-man rotation." Acta indicated he'd rather use the sixth pitcher for spot starts or to replace a young pitcher in the rotation. More rebuilding should use a six-man rotation after they've fallen out of contention. It gives more pitchers the chance to audition for the following year's staff while limiting each guy's innings to prevent too great a jump in any one season.
25Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 26
Ace Zack Greinke voiced his frustration with the Royals in a recent interview with the Kansas City Star, expressing doubt the team would improve much before his contact expires at the end of 2013. "There's no reason for me to get real excited about it," he said, "because the chance of more than one of them making a major impact by the time my contract is up is pretty slim." Greinke, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2002 draft, noted that the Royals' collection of top prospects needed time to develop. But what a collection it is -- on the 40-man roster are Bryan Bullington (No. 1 overall in 2002), Billy Butler (No. 14 overall in 2004), Alex Gordon (No. 2 overall in 2005), Luke Hochevar (No. 1 overall in 2006), Philip Humber (No. 3 overall in 2004) and Mitch Maier (No. 30 overall in 2003). That doesn't include promising minor-leaguers Mike Moustakas (No. 7 overall in 2007) and Eric Hosmer (No. 3 overall in 2008).
26Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 24
Before rather surprisingly roughing up the Giants' Tim Lincecum on Tuesday night en route to an 8-6 win, the Cubs had put forth one of the worst two-week stretches any team has had this season. Over 12 games from July 27 to Aug. 9, the Cubs went 1-11 and managed to lose all manner of games, including five one-run losses and, at the other end of the spectrum, drubbings of 17-2, 18-1 and 11-4.
27Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30
It's as if Luke Scott wants to prove to the other 29 teams in the majors that they should have traded for him at the deadline. The Orioles' designated hitter was their most valuable veteran commodity that wasn't dealt and beginning Aug. 1 -- the day after the deadline -- he has gone on a nine-game hitting streak, during which time he's hit four home runs and had six multi-hit games. With Scott mashing and Buck Showalter managing, the Orioles have won seven of their last eight games.
28Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
The Diamondbacks initially had a rule that they'd only retire a former player's number if he were inducted into the Hall of Fame. A dozen years later, however, with no player yet Hall-bound -- though Randy Johnson and possibly Curt Schilling likely could be headed there in a few years ? Arizona tweaked the policy and on Saturday retired the No. 20 worn by left fielder Luis Gonzalez. He played eight years with the D-backs but nothing will ever compare to his 2001 season in which he obliterated his previous career highs in home runs (57), RBIs (142), walks (100), OBP (.429) and slugging (.688) and then hit the World Series-winning bloop single off the Yankees' Mariano Rivera in Game 7.
29Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 27
After the Mariners fired Don Wakamatsu -- the fifth manager to receive that fate this year -- he took the high road in thanking the organization for the chance to manage and also thank his coaches, players, fans and the media. The Seattle Times suggested that Wakamatsu implicitly lent credibility to rumored problems regarding his relationship with since-retired Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr., his weakened backing from his players and worsening relationship with general manager Jack Zduriencik by not addressing them. Meanwhile, SI's Joe Posnanski speculated that Wakamatsu was merely the victim of misguided expectations.
30Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
Yeah, Joe Kerrigan and Gary Varsho were really the problem. But manager John Russell dismissed Kerrigan, his pitching coach, and Varsho, his bench coach, before Sunday's game, a strangely timed move given that Pittsburgh was 5-7 in a difficult stretch against teams with winning records and had just defeated the Rockies in exciting walk-off fashion the night before. So talk about a killjoy, but the most plausible explanation is the one reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette citing "disloyalty" to Russell from his coaches.
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